By MEGAN HUSSEY
When the Nature Coast Art League appears at the Hernando County Fine Arts Council's “Art in the Park,” Saturday, March 14th, and Sunday, March 15th, at Tom Varn Park in Brooksville, the league will bring a beautiful, large-scale art display; hundreds of dollars in prize money for student artists; and the spirit of a member who--even in death--continues to help and inspire through her art.
It is the Nature Coast Art League that is funding awards given through the Art in the Park juried student art show, with hundreds of dollars in cash awards for high school artists and gift cards for younger art show winners.
"Too many young people aren't going into the arts," explained art league president Carole Babicz. "And for those who are taking art, they may not have the equipment they need, the materials and supplies. We want to encourage them to go on in the arts."
Funding the awards will be the sale of artwork by Judy McIntire, a Nature Coast officer and Uptown Art Gallery Director who passed away last year. Proceeds from the sale of McIntire's art, both at Art in the Park and other events, will fund these student awards.
"Judy was a great person who loved to paint," said Babicz, an accomplished mosaic artist. "Her family knew how much her art, and her work with the Art League, meant to her."
Posted alongside McIntire's work will be the artistic pieces of more than 20 art league members displaying oils, watercolors, acrylics, pottery and mosaics.
"This is our members' chance to show their art, to show what they've accomplished," said veteran member Esther Pohl, exhibit chairman and an accomplished oil painter. "There's so much talent, in this area and in this league."
Claiming a history of at least 75 years in Hernando County, this group--originally known as the Spring Hill Art League--is open to artists of all skill and experience levels.
"Our mission is to promote the visual arts in Hernando County and to encourage and support local artists," reads a league mission statement. "We do this by encouraging and supporting artists through educational programs for the continued development of their talents and skills."
Meetings are conducted 3 p.m. the third Monday of the month September through May and include art demonstrations and workshops. Every Monday morning, 9-11:30 a.m., artists gather at the League's Create Along to paint, socialize, and learn from each other. Create Alongs continue throughout the summer. Both meetings and Create Alongs take place at the Weeki Wachee Senior Center, 3357 Susan Drive, Spring Hill. Dues are $30 per year or $35 per year for couples; those with questions about membership can contact Carole Babicz at 352 596 1015, or visit https://www.facebook.com/NatureCoastArtLeague/.
"We have workshops and demonstrations conducted by well-known artists," said Babicz. "And we have an Artist of the Month program for our members."
Workshop topics have included "Watercolor with a Gentle Touch," "Learn What It Takes to Prepare Your Work for a Gallery Exhibition," "Copyright Laws Explained," "Palette Knives," and "Buttons as Art." Member artwork has been seen on display everywhere from galleries to libraries, community gatherings to art competitions.
"The Nature Coast Art League is a welcoming community of artists supporting each other in our shared interest of creating art," said League member and award-winning artist Susan Beach, who recently claimed second place in the Hernando County Fine Arts Council Art in the Park Artist Contest. "They frequently host demonstrations and workshops by professional artists that enrich our skills."
The league also can be seen out in the community, volunteering locally at ARC in Spring Hill, an agency that provides individually tailored support and advocacy for people with disabilities and their families. And last Christmas, they supplied gifts for 126 local children in need.
"We like to reach out to the community," said Babicz.
And they have fun.
"We are a family," said Babicz.
"I believe that when they see our Art in the Park exhibit, guests will be left with one question," said Pohl. "Who wouldn't want to be a part of this group?"